Strong Towns with Chuck Marohn

“For the United States to be a prosperous country, it must have strong cities, towns and neighborhoods. Enduring prosperity for our communities cannot be artificially created from the outside but must be built from within, incrementally over time.” ~ Strong Town Mission Statement

By Catherine Austin Fitts

One of the most inspiring things to happen to me over the last year was discovering Chuck Marohn and his team at Strong Towns. Chuck was a successful engineer working with municipalities, who in turn discovered and exposed what he calls the “Growth Ponzi Scheme” – significant public investment that harms local economies. He created Strong Towns to inspire a new conversation about how we plan and organize our investment to produce strong towns enjoying enduring prosperity.

This week on the Solari Report, Chuck joins me to discuss what has happened as Strong Towns leads conversations around America – town by town – about reinventing resource allocation at the local level. This is conversation is both hopeful and inspiring – a reminder that real solutions are available when the group intelligence gathers and goes to work.

Our global society has used central banks – both fiat currency and the global bond and derivative markets – to create massive investment in public projects that often have a negative return on investment. That investment has generated hundreds of billions in “fees for our friends,” fueling a rising stock market and political contributions to politicians who keep the bond deals and construction misallocation going. In the process, local communities have allowed ourselves to be “bought” by government money that ultimately bankrupts them as well as the rest of us.

In Let’s Go to the Movies, I will review Ric Burn’s New York: A Documentary FilmLong and rich, the series does a remarkable job of making Marohn’s case that large public investment can do significant harm to local economies. The documentary covers the harm done to New York’s small business economy by large public projects that contributed to New York’s famous fiscal crisis, requiring federal intervention to prevent bond defaults in 1975. It also highlights Jane Jacobs remarkable contribution to stopping new highways in Manhattan and to our understanding of cities and their contribution to the wealth of nations.

In Money & Markets this week I will discuss the latest in financial and geopolitical news. Please make sure to post or e-mail your questions for Ask Catherine.

Talk to you Thursday!

Related Reading:

TEDx1000Lakes – Chuck Marohn – The Important Difference Between a Road and a Street

Scoring: How To Do the Math on Proposed Development in Your Town

The Real Reason Your Town Has No Money


  1. Thank You, Catherine!! Leave it to You to start the GroupThink pendulum in a more proper direction with all of Your work.. Great interview here today as well.. Thanks again ! ! !

  2. LOVED this Update…

    Really loved the linked content on their website as well. Real “meat and potatoes” policy stuff… and articulated in a marvelously apolitical manner.

    Building resilience into “place” may not cater to our “instant gratification” culture… but the yearning for the kind of close knit neighborhood and community cohesiveness of 50 years ago is increasingly expressing itself all over America, and sound decision making on policy sure can’t hurt.

    In SO many cities… there are a number of “developers” that drive much of what takes place in the “growth model” of towns and cities, and their stock in trade is typically close associations with folks in City Hall.

    The analysis of Chuck and Strong Towns provides a base of knowledge grounded in fact, that isn’t political but math based, that can provide people with the kind of information toolkit they can use to make a real difference when working in local policy and political affairs.

    When used “sans politics” it is bound to be one heck of a hard to deflect way of addressing the run-a-way freight train of out of control planning policy.

    Great stuff!

      • Just listened to it again while driving… you guys meeting is very exciting to me, Catherine.

        The last part of the interview really got my gears turning. It occurred to me while processing your conversation with Chuck, that so many of our problems are caused by a misshapen perception of how to build wealth in a place.

        The current centralized model sees people as potentially “bad”, because they are an unknown factor that may be difficult to control. That worldview of wealth building has been distorted in individuals who have hooked their wagons to “leverage and cutting corners”. How to leverage the biggest payout, as the primary driver of their activities. Eventually that moves into lawlessness and sacrifice of the value of living human beings. The motivation is to make money. Period.

        This myopic worldview is completely devoid of the foundation of all real wealth intrinsic value. The simple saw that money isn’t wealth… VALUE is wealth.

        No wonder folks addicted to close ended one sided profit “generation schemes” can’t recognize the potential wealth building capacities built into a “place”. They don’t see the people as valuable… they are something to be controlled, not people who can contribute to a local value proposition that is much deeper than money.

        Anyway… sorry to bogart the comments… this topic is one where the rubber really hits the road for folks, wondering how they can really make a difference. Heading over to Strong Towns to become a member now.

        Thanks Catherine!

        • Keep posting about it Dave – you are right at the root of real solutions. Appreciate your interest and willingness to sleuth out pathways.

          Yup. Process organized around fees for construction and financing construction which they generates either campaign contributions or where it works real estate capital gains that generate more campaign contributions. If it hurts little guys that makes it easier for publically traded stocks to aggregate market share – stock market up – more campaign contributions.

          Making money on human and intellectual capital is counter productive in this model. However, if you pool small business equity by place, then in fact you can express much more human and intellectual capital in financial equity in a human model.

          Chipping everyone and cryptocurrencies is their way of getting to it. Harvest model. With mind control they thing no one notices. It is very gruesome. To get to something economically productive you will have to kill off a lot of people.

          Given that they are likely creating millions of autistic kids to get a few savants, does not look like they care.

          What we need is for the 5-10% to appreciate that there is a human pathway that is explosively wealth creating. If enough of us can appreciate the opportunity, then we can shift things.

          • I will… and I look forward to future conversations between you and Chuck.

            I still see ideological entrainment as a sizable obstacle to real solutions. Whomever among us can learn to use “Socratic argument” instead of rancor to dialog solutions to our problems… might just be able to start to bridge those ideological divides.

            Based on ideological standing… so many folks who do good work still see “free government money” as “magical money”… money without consequence… because they still can’t grasp that the Government doesn’t HAVE any money of their own… or create unaffiliated money from debt that has no fiduciary consequence.

            Your experience and gifts can go a LONG way to helping educate folks in that area of study and endeavor, to understand how money really works… and that there really is no free lunch… except maybe at a relative’s house.

          • I love Franklin’s expression: “All government money comes with a sock in the jaw.”

          • We have another bingo winner. Why are there so many autistic kids? To study the DNA of those that have exceptional talents and isolate the genes to use to enhance the abilities of the unborn children while still in the womb. The Nazis are not in Charlotte they are in our government

  3. “When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars
    Then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars” (Lyrics – Age of Aquarius)

    Now and then in life someone special comes into your orbit in where you are in a synchronized state. This is one of the times.

    Catherine, you and Chuck & Strong Towns share a passion about helping people and their local communities and I look forward to the many more interviews with Strong Towns as your professional relationship matures.

    This was a very special interview for both of you, I think you sense that. It was like finding the vein of gold in bedrock and you yell out “Eureka”.

    Just sharing

    Safe Travels

  4. I was recently in Big Sky, MT. The amount of development and MONEY that’s being thrown around left my head spinning. Free weekly concerts with high production value; a “ribbon cutting” of the newly developed downtown including free food and alcohol; from incredible poke to locally crafted beers in tap, a live band and free photo booth, free parking; —-I turned to my friend and said “where are they getting the money for all of this??? How is this making any sense financially?”

    Loved the interview; hope you have him on again. It would be very helpful if you could go into kore specifics for those of us who are only learning about how the money works in communities–more examples and maybe education on how we can start finding out about how the money is working in our own towns?

    I’ve been traveling the US in an RV looking for where I want to make my next home. I would love more of a rubric on how to h deeeta d what I’m seeing via the “Solari” Lens.

    SO much development and construction happening in Montana and the greater Salt Lake area! Colorado is already too crazy to consider; whereas most of Idaho seems strangely either overlooked or part of “global 2.0”

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